What is English Sweat Sickness used for?

The English sweat sickness was a mysterious contagious infectious disease of the 15th and 16th centuries, the cause of which is still unknown today. It owes its name to the unusual, foul-smelling perspiration during the course of the disease and its main occurrence in England. Most of the time, this disease took a rapid course and was fatal.

What is the English sweat sickness?

English sweat, also known as English sweat, was a very contagious infectious disease that started suddenly and often resulted in death within a few hours. This disease first appeared in England in August 1485. It quickly reached the English capital of London, killing thousands there.

According to USVSUKENGLISH, the term English sweat, or English sweat sickness, is derived from the formation of large amounts of foul-smelling sweat. The English sweat spread in five waves of epidemics. After 1578 this disease no longer occurred, at least in England. After that there were still similar epidemics in Europe.

But the infections that occurred were also accompanied by eczema, which was not the case with the classic five outbreaks. Epidemics of the English sweat sickness took place in the years 1485/86, 1507, 1517, 1528/29 and 1551/52. Each wave of epidemics claimed several thousand deaths, although the severity of the disease varied from one epidemic to another.

During the second epidemic there were fewer deaths in relation to the number of sick people than during the first wave of the disease. The starting point of the epidemics was always England. But the epidemic always spread across Europe during an outbreak. It is true that the first four epidemics occurred together with waves of plague outbreaks.

However, the symptoms of both diseases differed significantly. Nevertheless, contemporary chroniclers referred to the disease outbreaks along with the plague as pestilence. The English sweat, however, often led to death even faster than the plague itself. After the second wave of disease with fewer deaths, the third epidemic in 1517 claimed a high number of deaths across Europe.

In many cities, half of the population is said to have died. The fourth eruption in 1528/29 was even more severe. During this epidemic, many birds also contracted a puzzling disease. It may be the same pathogen.

Also puzzling is the fact that this disease appeared suddenly in 1485 and just as suddenly disappeared again after 1578 without ever returning. However, in the centuries that followed, a similar disease appeared in Europe, but it was associated with a rash. This differentiated this illness, known as Picard’s sweat fever, from the English sweat sickness.


To this day nothing is known about the cause of the English sweat sickness. However, once it has been transmitted and progressed, it must have been an infectious disease. The disease was transmitted from person to person very quickly. It has not yet been possible to determine which pathogen was involved.

Among other things, influenza viruses, hantaviruses, pathogens or parasites transmitted via lice and fleas were suspected. Also poisoning the so-called ergot were blamed for the plague. However, this is very unlikely, as the clearly established potential for infection suggests an infection.

The disastrous hygienic conditions at this time probably also had a major influence on the outbreak of the epidemics. Why mostly strong men between the ages of 15 and 42 were affected by the disease is also a mystery. Women, children and the elderly were less likely to develop English sweat. The spread on the armed battlefields may play a role.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

The English sweat sickness was characterized by a sudden onset with massive anxiety, headache, chills, dizziness, sore throat, shoulder pain and body aches and extreme exhaustion. This stage lasted only briefly between half an hour and three hours. Only then did she suddenly sweat with a high fever.

The sweat was very bad smelling. The sweat broke out suddenly and apparently for no reason. The symptoms intensified rapidly with the development of nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, racing pulse, extreme thirst, delirious states and nosebleeds. Palpitations and severe heart pain were typical.

A seizure very often resulted in death. However, those who survived the first attack could often experience several more attacks and die from them. But there were also people who survived the English sweat sickness. These include the famous Anne Boleyn, a wife of King Henry VIII. Survivors, however, often suffered their entire lives from fits of heart racing and night sweats.


The English sweat sickness was recognized by the symptoms it appeared. Which pathogen was responsible for the disease could never be found out. Some victims of this epidemic were identified in 2001. However, the pathogen DNA could not be analyzed in them.


The English sweat sickness leads to considerable discomfort and complications. However, this disease no longer occurs today, so that there cannot be any particular complications. However, English sweating resulted in patient death in most cases due to the limited treatment options of earlier epochs. In most cases, people have a high fever and pain in their limbs.

Anxiety and panic attacks also occur. Patients continue to have chills and a sore throat. The pain can also affect the shoulders, resulting in significant mobility restrictions for the patient. In most cases, the high fever also leads to very profuse sweating. The heart rate increases enormously due to the English sweat sickness. The English sweat sickness did not always lead to death.

However, people could contract the disease again and continue to die from it. However, it was not uncommon for the sweating to lead to night sweats and heart problems even after they had subsided. Since the disease no longer occurs today, it does not need treatment. This disease significantly limits and reduces the life expectancy of patients.

When should you go to the doctor?

Although the disease normally no longer occurs these days, a doctor’s visit is necessary when the first signs of the disease appear. Without treatment there is a risk of fatal outcome, so it is particularly important to see a doctor early on. Symptoms such as sudden and unexplained anxiety and sweating are considered unusual. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time or if they increase in intensity, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. A doctor should be consulted as soon as severe headache and limb pain develop for no apparent reason.

If you feel generally sick, dizzy or unsteady walking, it is advisable to consult a doctor. See a doctor for examination and treatment if you have a high fever, nausea, and unexpected vomiting. Severe nosebleeds, heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure and palpitations should be clarified by a doctor. A life threatening condition exists that requires immediate intervention and medical attention.

A visit to the doctor is necessary if you have chest pain and persistent discomfort. If the usual level of performance falls, if there are concentration problems and general weakness, a doctor is required. If the symptoms increase rapidly within minutes or a few hours, an emergency doctor must be called. Until it arrives, first aid measures must be taken.

Treatment & Therapy

Today the English sweat sickness apparently no longer occurs. Today’s therapy for the disease would be based on the type of pathogen causing it. At that time there were no treatment options at all, especially since the disease broke out suddenly and without any warning. The course of the disease was left to chance.

Outlook & forecast

The English sweat sickness was a serious infectious disease in the 15th century, the prospect and prognosis of which was mostly fatal for those affected. At that time there were no treatment options that promised an improvement or a cure.

Individual symptoms worsened from day to day, so that the fever rose to 40 degrees and in some cases there was also a rapid heartbeat. In many cases, the symptoms and discomfort subsided completely after a week before a significantly stronger flare-up of discomfort occurred.

Many affected people died from this new episode of the English sweat sickness. Some survived this stubborn infectious disease severely weakened. A renewed infection with viruses and bacteria was fatal in many cases, even if the English sweat sickness was completely overcome.

The English sweat sickness has not occurred for several hundred years. The prospect of a complete cure was very poor at the time. Many affected people died from this infectious disease because there were no specific treatment options or effective and effective drugs. In this day and age, English sweat sickness could be effectively combated with antibiotics, so the prospect of a full recovery would look very good.


Since the English sweat sickness no longer occurs today, recommendations for its prevention are not relevant. At that time, higher hygiene standards could certainly have prevented the disease from breaking out.


Those affected have no or only very few measures and options for aftercare available for this sweating disease. Here, the patient is primarily dependent on an early and rapid diagnosis so that further complications and complaints can be avoided. There is also no self-healing, whereby the symptoms usually worsen if no treatment for the sweat disorder is initiated.

Therefore, the early detection of this disease is in the foreground. The treatment of English sweating is usually based on the exact underlying disease, so that no general prediction can be made. In many cases, however, the underlying disease cannot be found, so that the person affected has to rely on purely symptomatic treatment.

In general, with this sweating disorder, the patient should wear light, airy clothing. This should also be done while sleeping. Regular checkups and examinations by a doctor are also necessary to check the condition of the sweat sickness. It is not uncommon for people to be in contact with other people affected by the sweat disease, as this can lead to an exchange of information. As a rule, this disease does not reduce the life expectancy of those affected.

You can do that yourself

English sweat sickness was last observed in the late 16th century. Since the causes of the mysterious epidemic could never be clarified, no self-help measures can be derived in the highly unlikely event of a new outbreak of the disease. As with all aggressive infectious diseases, a doctor should be consulted immediately in the first case and the risk of infection for third parties minimized.

In the historical context, all self-help measures known at the time were useless. Even the flight to the countryside practiced by aristocratic and wealthy bourgeois families in particular did not protect against infection or the outbreak of the disease.

English sweat sickness